internet privacy index header

The Internet Privacy Index aims to showcase, inform and educate the general public on the mass surveillance, censorship and privacy-invasive practices of governments across the world.

It also aims to encourage open discussion on Internet privacy and free speech, as well as challenge stereotypes of how we perceive good governments and snooping dictatorships. Its ultimate goal, however, is to inspire regular citizens, privacy protection organizations, and investigative journalists across the globe to continue the fight for endorsement of the right to privacy de jure and de facto in every country.

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It also aims to encourage open discussion on Internet privacy and free speech, as well as challenge stereotypes of how we perceive good governments and snooping dictatorships. Its ultimate goal, however, is to inspire regular citizens, privacy protection organizations, and investigative journalists across the globe to continue the fight for endorsement of the right to privacy de jure and de facto in every country.

Privacy: De Jure and De Facto

Whenever a new online privacy or digital freedoms index crops up, the first thing it tends to evaluate is privacy-protecting laws in each country.

However, a quick look at how mass surveillance and privacy-protecting regulations stake against the actual government privacy invasion practices showed that laws – or the lack of whereof – seldom reflect what really happens to online privacy across the globe.

The fact that many countries never bothered to include the right to privacy and cybersecurity in their constitutions is telling. But even the countries that do have laws on the books that protect “personal data” have well-documented records of violating citizen’s civil rights.

Freedom: Open Discussion vs Silence

Media coverage of government spying on their own citizens is a two-fold indicator. On the one hand, it outlines the possible scale of the actual mass surveillance practices in a given country. On the other, the very fact that mass media cover the issue indicates the strength of the freedom of speech and independent press in that country.

Likewise, the lack of media scandals involving state-sponsored mass surveillance does not mean there is no surveillance going on. On the contrary, it might be a clear symptom of an oppressive regime persecuting investigative journalism and free speech. A dictatorship that routinely spies on its own citizens is unlikely to tolerate an open discussion of its intelligence gathering and freedom-oppressing practices.

Censorship = Mass Surveillance

Given that censorship and state-imposed content control are impossible without widespread surveillance of Internet use, it is safe to assume that the presence of censorship and content control are clear indicators of mass surveillance.

Challenging Stereotypes

We aim to look beyond conventional stereotypes of what we think is a typical oppressive regime. A surveillance state can be a traditional oppressive dictatorship or the more modern style of a maternalistic iron claw in the velvet glove coming across as a democracy.



Explore the Index by Country

  • Filter by
    • Country
    • Internet Grade
    • Government Grade
    • Grouping:
      • Gold
      • Dark Blue
      • Light Blue
      • Light Red
      • Medium Red
      • Dark Red
Europe
Belarus
Internet Privacy
45.8 / C
Good Government
26.6 / D
Croatia
Internet Privacy
91.6 / A
Good Government
54.7 / C
Denmark
Internet Privacy
88 / A
Good Government
100 / A
Estonia
Internet Privacy
100 / A
Good Government
88.5 / A
Finland
Internet Privacy
88.8 / A
Good Government
97.2 / A
France
Internet Privacy
84.4 / A
Good Government
79.8 / B
Georgia
Internet Privacy
89.5 / A
Good Government
53.4 / C
Germany
Internet Privacy
90.1 / A
Good Government
89.4 / A
Hungary
Internet Privacy
92.8 / A
Good Government
38.3 / D
Italy
Internet Privacy
87.5 / A
Good Government
68.7 / B
Moldova
Internet Privacy
78.6 / B
Good Government
34 / D
Norway
Internet Privacy
88.2 / A
Good Government
99.8 / A
Romania
Internet Privacy
88.8 / A
Good Government
63.4 / B
Russia
Internet Privacy
45 / C
Good Government
28.7 / D
Sweden
Internet Privacy
89.1 / A
Good Government
94.4 / A
Turkey
Internet Privacy
45.1 / C
Good Government
25.2 / D
Ukraine
Internet Privacy
84.2 / A
Good Government
34 / D
United Kingdom
Internet Privacy
85.7 / A
Good Government
88.6 / A
Asia
Afghanistan
Internet Privacy
73.7 / B
Good Government
24.6 / D
Armenia
Internet Privacy
69.9 / B
Good Government
54.8 / C
Azerbaijan
Internet Privacy
58.3 / C
Good Government
29.3 / D
Bahrain
Internet Privacy
13.1 / F
Good Government
48.9 / C
Bangladesh
Internet Privacy
69.4 / B
Good Government
28.3 / D
Cambodia
Internet Privacy
75 / B
Good Government
14.9 / F
China
Internet Privacy
1 / F
Good Government
38.6 / D
Egypt
Internet Privacy
60.8 / B
Good Government
12.5 / F
India
Internet Privacy
58.5 / C
Good Government
62.3 / B
Indonesia
Internet Privacy
60 / C
Good Government
57.5 / C
Japan
Internet Privacy
88.9 / A
Good Government
78.1 / B
Jordan
Internet Privacy
63.8 / B
Good Government
45.5 / C
Kazakhstan
Internet Privacy
47.1 / C
Good Government
32.6 / D
Kyrgyzstan
Internet Privacy
83.7 / A
Good Government
38.4 / D
Lebanon
Internet Privacy
78.8 / B
Good Government
35.2 / D
Malaysia
Internet Privacy
71.8 / B
Good Government
39.5 / D
Myanmar
Internet Privacy
50.4 / C
Good Government
37.1 / D
Philippines
Internet Privacy
98.4 / A
Good Government
46 / C
Saudi Arabia
Internet Privacy
13.5 / 
Good Government
58.6 / C
Singapore
Internet Privacy
62.5 / B
Good Government
76.5 / B
South Korea
Internet Privacy
58.1 / C
Good Government
75.7 / B
Sri
Internet Privacy
82.7 / A
Good Government
44 / C
Thailand
Internet Privacy
38.2 / D
Good Government
42.9 / C
United Arab Emirates
Internet Privacy
17.5 / F
Good Government
59.6 / C
Uzbekistan
Internet Privacy
26.2 / D
Good Government
23.3 / D
Vietnam
Internet Privacy
18.1 / F
Good Government
39.5 / D
North America
Canada
Internet Privacy
92.2 / A
Good Government
88.9 / A
Guatemala
Internet Privacy
85.7 / A
Good Government
38.9 / D
Mexico
Internet Privacy
84.8 / A
Good Government
35.6 / D
United States
Internet Privacy
93.6 / A
Good Government
80.9 / A
South America
Argentina
Internet Privacy
90.3 / A
Good Government
60.2 / B
Brazil
Internet Privacy
87.9 / A
Good Government
48 / C
Colombia
Internet Privacy
88.6 / A
Good Government
46.2 / C
Ecuador
Internet Privacy
80.3 / A
Good Government
31.5 / D
Peru
Internet Privacy
83.3 / A
Good Government
52.1 / C
Venezuela
Internet Privacy
69.5 / B
Good Government
1 / F
Africa and Australia
Australia
Internet Privacy
87.8 / A
Good Government
88.3 / A
Ethiopia
Internet Privacy
26.4 / D
Good Government
17.4 / F
Iran
Internet Privacy
1.2 / F
Good Government
43 / C
Kenya
Internet Privacy
94.5 / A
Good Government
35.1 / D
Libya
Internet Privacy
66.8 / B
Good Government
29 / D
Malawi
Internet Privacy
82.7 / A
Good Government
41.4 / C
Morocco
Internet Privacy
65 / B
Good Government
45.9 / C
Nepal
Internet Privacy
77.8 / B
Good Government
49.9 / C
Nigeria
Internet Privacy
90.7 / A
Good Government
37.7 / D
Pakistan
Internet Privacy
39.3 / D
Good Government
40.4 / C
South Africa
Internet Privacy
96.9 / 
Good Government
55.5 / C
Sudan
Internet Privacy
38.2 / D
Good Government
48.8 / C
Syria
Internet Privacy
15.1 / F
Good Government
36.4 / D
Tunisia
Internet Privacy
77.7 / B
Good Government
49.2 / C
Uganda
Internet Privacy
83.7 / A
Good Government
23.4 / D
Zambia
Internet Privacy
87.9 / A
Good Government
33 / D
Zimbabwe
Internet Privacy
75.1 / B
Good Government
10.6 / F

How to Explore the Map

To determine the individual Internet Privacy Grade (A-F) of each country, a two-tier scoring system was applied:

  • The Internet Index (1-100) – measures how much a government tends to avoid interfering in private use of the Internet, including avoiding surveillance.
  • The Government Index (1-100) – measures the extent to which a government is restrained, transparent, and honest.

Combinations of grades were then used to create “groupings” of countries for the sake of the ease of use and visualization. The resulting map is split into three color-coded groupings, with two sub-groupings each:

  • Gold – unites restrained and open governments with high freedom from government surveillance of and interference with the Internet.
  • Blue – unites countries with mediocre levels of government transparency and invasion of the Internet privacy and freedom of speech.
  • Red – represents highly invasive, unrestrained and closed governments, poor or no protection from state surveillance and interference with the Internet.

Highlights

  • Internet surveillance and data confidentiality statutes were of little value in assessing actual internet confidentiality/surveillance practices. Nearly every country that bothered to have a law on the books had conventional protections on “personal data.”
  • Scandals that involved governments spying on their own citizens could be as much or more of an indication of the freedom and strength of the press than of actual differences in government respect for privacy over the internet. One hardly expects a police state to have an open discussion of its intelligence gathering in its largest news outlets, after all. 
  • The United States scored an A for Internet Privacy (93.6) and an A for Government (80.9), placing it in the Gold grouping (governments with high freedom from government surveillance of and interference with the Internet). Other top-ranking countries for good privacy protections and Internet freedom include Estonia, Canada, and Germany.
  • Countries with the least Internet privacy include China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates. (Twenty out of 71 of evaluated countries (28.17%) scored poorly.)

key findings privacy

Methodology  

The Internet Privacy Index evaluated 71 of the world’s digitally-connected countries and their governments’ surveillance practices, as well as the state of freedom of speech affecting citizens’ Internet privacy.

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Data Sources

The Internet Privacy Index is based on the following data:

The Open Net Initiative (ONI) report variables:

  • Political – government-imposed censorship targeting dissident and opposition websites as well as resources related to human rights, freedom of speech, religious movements, and minority rights.
  • Social – state-imposed censorship of content related to socially sensitive and potentially offensive topics, such as sexuality, alcohol, drugs, or gambling.
  • Conflict/security – state censorship of topics related to armed conflicts, border disputes, militant groups, and separatist movements.
  • Internet tools – state control and censorship of online services providing e-mail, hosting, search, translation, VoIP, and circumvention/anonymization tools such as VPNs.

The Freedom of the Net 2016 report variables:

  • Obstacles to access – an index of how difficult it is for an ordinary person to gain access to the Internet
  • Limits on content – government censorship
  • Violations of user rights
  • Count of key Internet control methods used
  • Count of topics censored

The 2017 World Justice Project Rule of Law Index (WJP):

  • Constraints on governmental power
  • Absence of corruption
  • Open government

When all variables were combined by country, and any country missing all information from either of the three sources was eliminated, the index ended up with 71 countries.

Important Considerations

  • Internet grade was prioritized over Government grade.
  • If the Government Index contradicts the Internet Index, it is obvious that there is not a strong relationship between what we tend to consider overall good government and freedom from state surveillance on the Internet.
  • Some index scores may be inconsistent due to the limited information on a country and inability of some countries to invade privacy effectively just yet.
  • The data sources did not include some important political factors, such as the reality of the Five Eyes and The Fourteen Eyes alliances, FISA courts, and gag orders. These could potentially turn the tables for some of the countries that ranked high.